David Bowie: How tiny Edinburgh flat was birthplace of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust alter-ego in the 70s

Today marks the eighth anniversary of David Bowie's death – but did you know the music icon’s most famous alter-ego was born right here in Edinburgh?
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That's right, back in the early 1970s, Bowie and then-wife Angie stayed for a few weeks in a dingy two-bedroom flat on Drummond Street with mime artist Lindsay Kemp – a major influence on the singer's theatrical style, particularly during the Ziggy Stardust era.

Around this time, Bowie donned face make-up for the very first time to play a tiny concert at the Edinburgh College of Art.

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Three years later, and by now a bona fide superstar, he returned to Edinburgh on The Ziggy Stardust Tour, playing a now-legendary gig at the Empire Theatre on January 6, 1973.

David Bowie applying his Ziggy Stardust makeup in the 1970s. Picture: R Bamber/Rex FeaturesDavid Bowie applying his Ziggy Stardust makeup in the 1970s. Picture: R Bamber/Rex Features
David Bowie applying his Ziggy Stardust makeup in the 1970s. Picture: R Bamber/Rex Features

The story of Bowie's short but historically significant time in the Capital was recounted by James McDonald Reid – who lived with Bowie in the tiny flat that Kemp owned on Drummond Street.

Within days of arriving at the Kemp’s home, Bowie began wearing the extravagant make-up he was soon to be famous around the world for.

A few years back, James told the Evening News: “I remember David Bowie very well from his days in Edinburgh – it must have been around 1970/71.

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“He arrived with his wife Angie, who was really loud and brash, and stayed with myself, Lindsay and dancer Jack Birkett. It was a very small and dark flat and if I remember correctly we all had to share a mattress on the floor as there were no beds.

David Bowie at The Empire Theatre on the 6th January 1973.David Bowie at The Empire Theatre on the 6th January 1973.
David Bowie at The Empire Theatre on the 6th January 1973.

“He was a very, very shy and quiet man, but I did notice he was very observant and would listen and take in everything around him. He was obviously heavily influenced by Lindsay who was a terrific mime artist and who wore make-up a lot of the time - and within days Bowie was wearing it too.

“I believe the gig at the art college was the very first time he had worn make-up on stage, and that is all down to him meeting and being influenced by Lindsay.

“Then within months I saw him play a show in London and he was completely transformed from the long-haired hippy I had first met in Edinburgh into this incredible stage performer.”

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And while Bowie stayed in Edinburgh, he loved to wander around the city streets on his own, soaking up the history and stunning architecture.

James recalled: “He would get up fairly early and head out on his own and just walk the streets. As I said he was very observant and always very interested in his surroundings.

“During the art college gig he was more of a folk-orientated artist but he soon changed all that and became the worldwide star we all know today.

“I wasn’t a huge fan of his music but he was a thoroughly lovely person and I was saddened by his early death. It certainly brought all those memories flooding back.”

Sadly, Bowie died after a long battle with cancer on January 10, 2016, days after his 69th birthday when he released his 25th album, Blackstar.

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